My Unsweetened Relationship With Sugar

My relationship status with sugar: Complicated. A lifelong battle with the sweet stuff has left me reflective of just how much emotional pain can affect our diet.

Food is fucking complicated.

Once upon a time, I ate whatever I wanted. I didn’t care. If it tasted good, I ate it. It wouldn’t be uncommon for me to polish off an entire bag of Oreo’s in one sitting. I remember eating insane amounts of Eggo waffles when I was in college, smothering them in whatever that Aunt Jemima sugar sauce is. The Neopolitan ice cream flavour was my favourite in the summer, and I’d never used a bowl for that stuff. I shovelled it straight from the bucket into my mouth -often drowned in some caramel or chocolate sauce. I had no care in the world. Fortunately, my horrible diet didn’t become a physical issue for me. I ‘m grateful to be blessed with a healthy metabolism and a strong pancreas. Thankfully, I survived my early relationship with sugar reasonably unscathed.

My relationship with sugar runs deep.

For the longest time, I was deeply unhappy with my life, and sugar was my comfort. But let’s back up a little. I’d lived a childhood almost entirely void of sugar. Diagnosed with a condition called iron deficiency anemia, my diet consisted of a lot of iron-rich food like beef liver and a lot of green vegetables. Yum! Because my parents heavily regulated my diet, sugar in the form of candy had no place in my life. It’d usually took me months to make a dent into my Halloween candy.

I had been given much more freedom over my diet as a teenager, but I never exploited it. Because I didn’t have much exposure to sugar in my early years, I didn’t crave it. I was drinking water while the rest of my friends were hung up on the Pepsi generation.

The realities of being an adult lead me to the sugar pile.

With the responsibilities of adulthood weighing on me and carrying around the emotional pain of childhood sexual abuse, I found a buddy in sugar. While I didn’t think I was depressed, sugar sure lifted me. The sweet taste of it sent off a happy charge of dopamine throughout my brain and for that brief moment, I was relieved. The Oreos, waffles, ice cream and Aunt Jemima’s sweet and sticky nectar of the Gods became my dealer, and sugar was my anti-depressant drug.

My relationship with sugar goes even deeper.

I’m always amazed when I can bridge the gaps between what I ‘m doing and why I’m doing it. Once we understand our behaviours, we understand ourselves. Once we understand ourselves, we begin to fix our problems.

My complicated relationship with sugar goes well beyond just a sugary treat that excites my brain. When I was a kid, my father was often the warden when it came to sugar in my diet. I’d often have to ask him for permission to eat candy or accept a treat from a friend. I understand that he was looking after my best interests as I ‘m sure my doctor advised him to limit my sugar intake to control my anemia. But as a child, I was being restricted from sweet, and I never understood why. I just accepted it.

If you’re not familiar with my back story, I was sexually abused by my father as a 10-year-old. His presence in my life was huge, and because of the sick bond that we shared, he became my world. I was helpless to his strong personality. He was a very demanding, narcissistic, yet a giving man, who, as long as I obeyed his wishes, I generally got what I wanted from him. I always wanted to please him. It was a survival tactic that served me very well, even if it did cost me my sanity at times.

Freedom came from eating sugar.

As I became an adult and the bond between my father and me loosened, I had complete freedom over my diet. With that emotional pain in the back of my mind, eating junk food laced with sugar was not only a chemical rush, it also was a small act of defiance. My relationship with sugar changed; I was no longer sugar-free, I was free with sugar! I was taking back my body and mind, but at the same time, destroying both. At that time my father was still an influential part of my life. But the distance of not sharing the same roof allowed me to eat sugar wherever and whenever I pleased; I didn’t have to please him anymore. With the defiance of eating what I shouldn’t and the dopamine hit got from sugar, I was a comforted “sugaraholic.”

What comforted me would likely end up killing me.

Just about ten years ago I dropped the bomb and broke off the relationship with my father. I had to cut free from his narcissistic ways and charismatic charm over me. Over the past decade, I’ve had to relearn and learn who I am and who I want to become without pleasing another soul besides my own.

In my journey of learning, I’ve read many books on mental health, sexual abuse, diet, fitness and self-help. Every book I read inches me towards understanding the human condition. I ‘m not one to hinge all of my truth onto one book. No author has all of the answers or knows all of the facts, but there are often common values and takeaways that hold my attention. As I apply newfound knowledge, I encounter many ups and downs, trials and errors. But the common thread in all of my learning has been my resentment towards sugar and my relationship with it.

We are blowing up with sugar.

The dangers of sugar are well published and quite evident all around us. Close to 25% of the world’s population is overweight, and 8% of the world’s population is obese. Worldwide obesity has tripled since 1975, just around the time when fats were made out to be the enemy and carbs were made to be our friend. Sugar and all of its relatives are driving us to sickness and madness. Consumption of this stuff combined with our desire to sit our asses down for long periods of time is literally blowing us up.

I battle with sugar poison, but it’s a losing cause.

Sugar has been a lifelong battle for me. When I was a child, I couldn’t have it. As a young adult, I’d eat it all. Now as a parent, I’m trying my best to restrict sugar from my child. I realize that my deepest emotions are tied to this shit but how can I not be passionate about it when the facts about sugar are so blatantly obvious. I’ve gradually eliminated most sugar from my diet, but in the sugar happy and accepting society we live in, reducing it from my son’s diet is nearly impossible. I genuinely struggle with not becoming the sugar czar that my father once was, but on the other hand, trying to turn a blind eye watching my son consume something that I consider poison.

Why am I really angry?

I have to ask myself: “Am I angry at sugar?” or “Am I angry at the pain that leads to sugar?” With what I’ve been through in my life, it’s undoubtedly the latter. I realize that I have misdirected my energy. I’d tried to take the shortcut to eradicate the pain of those I love by villainizing the drug that eases it. But there’s no shortcut to ending emotional pain. You can’t go over it, or under it, you must go through it by feeling it. My relationship with sugar is complicated. But by blaming it for the pain in my life, I’m only excusing myself from helping others with their pain.